Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Secrets of Spending

Among the responsibilities of a conscientious Muslim is the responsibility of wealth. He is held accountable for how he earned it and how he spent it. There is to be a balance in a Muslim’s spending. Neither is an ideal Muslim a spendthrift nor is he a miser.

And do not make your hand [as] chained to your neck or extend it completely and [thereby] become blamed and insolvent. (Israa 17:29)
To develop the wisdom in order to spend on the right things, on the right occasions needs an understanding of the objectives of an Islamic lifestyle and our role in it. Thus knowledge of Islam is a pre-requisite of developing wise spending habits. If we are committed to changing our lives according to the mission of Islam, we will strive to learn and implement the fiqh of financial matters as it relates to us.
To start off with we must ensure that our earnings are halal viz. we work in a business that does not deal in products and services which violate the principles of Islam and that we work honestly. This is essential in order for us to live a blessed life. There are many Muslims out there who would not consider eating any meat which is not zabiha. Yet they have no qualms in accumulating interest in their savings accounts!

Likewise care is needed that money is not spent on haram products and services like interest-based mortgages, loans, lottery and other such vices. Instead spending money on halal alternatives is rewarded, like spending on monthly house rent. There are many people who say that taking a mortgage helps save money. They should realize that Allah (SWT) has said that He destroys the blessings in any transaction of riba. Whereas spending on one’s family in a halal manner by paying monthly rent is rewarded and blessed. It is an investment for the Hereafter with manifold rewards. Thus it is not a waste of money.
Many people feel compelled to take out interest-bearing loans to fulfill their needs. I feel this can be avoided by living strategically in today’s world. Loans should be avoided if at all possible. If one is forced to, one can take non-interest loans with the genuine intention to pay it back as quickly as possible. The Prophet (SWAS) did not pray janaza prayers on those who died with outstanding loans. Thus salvation is dependent on fulfilling the responsibility one has not only to the Creator but also His Creation. A loan-taker is also deprived of the blessings that come by giving regular zakat and sadaqaat.

The purpose of spending should be primarily to seek Allah’s (SWT) pleasure, not primarily to follow the trend/fashion, showing off, social competition, pleasing one’s nafs or other people. Thus one should get a house in a peaceful, strategic location of the city that is comfortable, because in its secure environment one can carry out constructive activities for Allah’s (SWT) sake. Similarly, a vehicle should be purchased for its reliability and economic value to take one to those places where one needs to go to carry out one’s responsibilities efficiently. Clothes should be worn to cover the aurah, protect the body from the elements and to look pleasing to one’s spouse and the community for Allah’s (SWT) sake. If we just learn to check our intentions before we shop, we can avoid much waste.

By committing to adopt the Sunnah lifestyle, we can learn to spend where it is important and curtail unnecessary expenses. By living a simple, practical, down-to-earth, goal-centered, efficient, natural and satisfying lifestyle, one does not need to worry about the superficial things that people spend so much on these days. The biggest fraction of the Prophet’s (SWAS) expenses was on charities. By taking care of the weaker segments of society, we not only follow Allah’s (SWT) injunctions, but also benefit ourselves immediately through a feeling of satisfaction, thinking outside our own domain of phobias, good will and satisfaction in in our communities, etc. The Prophet (SWAS) also frequently shared meals with relatives and the community creating healthy social bonds among them and creating opportunities for dawah and tarbiyya.

Another aspect of the Prophetic lifestyle is that it is at higher intellectual and spiritual levels than the rest of humanity. Thus we should also strive to raise our levels of understanding and implementing the deen. This cannot take place by just having free Skype lessons from unqualified teachers. A considerable amount of money and time needs to be allocated for one’s and one’s family’s education – secular as well as religious. Personally, I have found that I am more dedicated to a class if I make sure that I pay a high amount for it. I tend to take it more seriously. Not only does it benefit me more, it enables the education provider to support scholars, improve their services and serve many more people. Almost all time of year, my family and I are engaged in learning and teaching. Thus I do not consider spending on courses and books a waste of money, especially if they are Islamic. Over the years, I have bought and studied many expensive books, some of them from overseas. This is the only hobby I have for collection things. At home we have a library and a big fraction of it is religious books, DVD and cassettes. We regularly attend the annual book fairs in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah spending AED 1500-3000 on each occasion. We buy multiple copies of many good books to give as gifts.

Similarly, money must be invested in dawah work. It is more beneficial if one engages in the dawah projects in person rather than donating money to dawah organizations. Money should be spent liberally on those things that are needed for dawah like carrying out good quality car maintenance for a vehicle that is being used for that purpose or upgrading a computer for internet dawah. Monthly donations should be given to extended family members and one should stay in touch with them asking after their well-being and giving any advice or help. This is especially true for one’s parents. It is important to highlight that helping others is not limited to just spending money on them. There are a whole range of possible ways one can benefit them.
By adopting the above methodology, I have found that I can save money on frequently upgrading homes, furniture, crockery, cars, mobile phones, clothes, accessories, etc. I do not go for the latest deals no matter how attractive they are if they do not fit with my general goals. I go to the shops and malls only when it is essential, with a list and I make sure I leave quickly. Another big area of curtailing expenses has been entertainment. By living our lives naturally, we do not feel the need to constantly keep ourselves amused. Children can be kept healthy by enjoying an outdoor weekly trip to the park or the beach. For many years our annual vacations have been spent in Makkah and Madinah rather than worldwide resorts.

Money must not be wasted on frivolous things that do not help one’s mission. Rather one should be spent one’s halal earnings with the Prophetic intention, vision and example on one’s family, relatives, community, for seeking knowledge, for charity and dawah projects. By doing this, one can fulfill one’s needs but avoid situations in which loans are necessary, making one a solvent and contributing member in one’s society.